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Let’s go hiking!

family hiking

Spring is here and with summer right around the corner, it seemed like a good time to do an article about hiking. Just like camping, hiking is a great way for you to spend quality time with your family without spending a fortune. But how do you get started? Here are some tips that can help.

Location

First, decide how big of an adventure you want to tackle. Start small and work your way into longer treks.

  • The easiest trails can be found at nature centers or Metroparks. These are often just a few miles on groomed trails so they can be completed in a few hours.
  • You can then steadily increase the distance and/or altitude on future hikes. As you take on more challenging trails, you may eventually decide that you want to spend the night on the trail.

Boots

Absolutely, the most important equipment is footwear! If you don’t have boots that are comfortable or fit properly, you are going to have problems.

  • Generally you’ll want a boot that provides plenty of arch and ankle support (although some hikers like to wear lightweight shoes with very little support).
  • Spend as much as you can afford on the boots. It is true that you get what you pay for.
  • Consider getting your boots from an outdoor recreation store like REI. Stores like this often allow you to exchange the boots for a different style if you find them uncomfortable. Their staff is also going to be more knowledgeable about hiking than at a regular shoe store.
  • Wear your boots around the house or during the day to help break them in before going on a hike.

Equipment

Backpacking is all about saving weight. When you have everything in your backpack, it shouldn’t weigh more than one-third of your body weight. If it does, either you have too much stuff or you need to buy lighter equipment. Not surprisingly, lighter equipment is usually higher in price.

  • A backpack
    • Start with basic equipment. A regular school-type backpack is fine for going a few miles at a Metropark. You can pack a lunch, snacks, and a small first aid kit with plenty of room left for a raincoat, extra water, etc.
    • When you’re ready to start spending the night on the trail, it’s time to upgrade your equipment.
      • The duration of your hike will help determine the size of the backpack that you need. If you plan to continue expanding your hiking abilities, go with a bigger pack so you can grow into it.
      • For overnight hikes, you can probably get by with a 40 to 50 liter backpack. For a weeklong hike, you’ll want 80 to 90 liters.
    • Most backpacks now have an internal frame, meaning that the structure is built into the backpack instead of the frame being on the outside. When you’re at the store, try on several different brands and styles to see which one fits your build the best. Again, an outdoor recreation store is great for this because they have a wide selection and knowledgeable staff.
  • A sleeping bag.
    • There are generally two types of sleeping bags: down and synthetic. Down is warmer but can take longer to dry if it gets wet (although there are new styles available with water-resistant down). Synthetic bags will dry faster and are usually cheaper. Be sure to get a waterproof compression sack to store it in.
    • Note: You don’t want to use the same one that you use for tent camping because it won’t compress small enough to fit in your backpack.
  • A tent.
    • There are several styles of backpacking tents available in a wide range of prices. If you’re hiking with other people, you can get a two person tent and each of you can carry half of the tent.
    • Generally speaking, most tents are similar in design; you’ll have poles, a nylon shell, and a rainfly.
    • When you buy a higher price tent, you’re paying for lighter weight.
  • Some cooking gear.
    • Start with a backpacking stove. You can get ones with pre-filled canisters of fuel, ones with a fuel bottle that you can refill, ones that use fuel tablets, or even ones that use wood. Talk with a staff member at the store to determine which one is best for your needs.
    • For pots and pans, look for ones that nest inside each other to save space.
    • Again, higher price means lighter weight.
  • You don’t need to spend much money on plates, cups and utensils. Just get a plastic bowl, a cup, and a spork (a fork, spoon and knife all in one). You can even go simpler and use a Frisbee for your bowl!s
  • That’s it for the basic equipment that you need. You can consider getting things like collapsible stools, hiking poles, pillows, GPS, coffee pots, and more. Just remember to watch the weight.

Food

  • To save weight, go with freeze-dried food. It stores easily and is fairly easy to cook on the trail.
  • Bring high-energy snacks to eat while hiking. You will go through more of these than you would expect, so have plenty.
  • Water can be your biggest obstacle when hiking. If you’re doing a strenuous hike, you’ll want to have at least one quart of water for every hour that you’re hiking. Drinking water also helps combat altitude sickness. You’ll also need water for cooking and cleaning. Consider dedicating specific bottles for each of the categories. You’ll likely need to fill your bottles during the trip so plan ahead. Either know where you can find clean, sanitized water or bring a method to sanitize water from streams and lakes.

Clothing

  • Less is more with clothing. Believe me, you can go a whole week on two sets of clothes! Bring some biodegradable soap and you can wash your clothes in a stream. Hang them on the outside of your pack to dry as you hike.
  • Spend some extra money and get a lightweight, thermal, long-sleeve shirt. You can wear this in the morning so you don’t have to bring a coat.
  • Have a separate set of sleeping clothes. Shorts and a T-shirt work great.
  • Bring a couple extra pairs of socks so that you always have a dry pair to wear.

Miscellaneous Tips

  • A lack of sanitation is the enemy when hiking. Don’t drink untreated water from lakes and streams. Make sure you are properly cleaning and sanitizing your cooking gear. Determine how you are going to deal with your waste and use hand sanitizer as necessary.
  • Be sure to familiarize yourself with the trails before setting out. Even if you are hiking though a Metropark, print off a copy of the map so you know where you are. For longer hikes, purchase topographical maps of the area. Even though you can use a compass on your phone, have a regular compass as a backup.
  • Make sure to use sunscreen. Even in the woods, the sun can filter through and have an effect.
  • Always let someone know that you’re going on a hike (even if you’re with a group). Share your planned route and when you expect to return. This will assist rescuers should you need help on the trail. Remember, your cell phone may not work on the trail, so you may not be able to call for help.
  • Finally, follow the Leave No Trace principles. They can be found at lnt.org. It’s important that we all follow these principles so that everyone can enjoy the trails for generations to come.

Now, get out on the trail and see what the world has to offer!

– Dave Enerson started camping and hiking with his dad as a young child. He is a former Scoutmaster of a local Boy Scout Troop and spent a week hiking at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico last summer.

Finding my tribe

group of women friends

I couldn’t be as effective at parenting as I am without my mom tribe. In fact, I have a few. Each one serves a different purpose for me. One is a person, I belong to a twins group and an online group. I tried getting into another one, but it just wasn’t for me.

My person has been there, done all of it with three kids. She knows when I need to vent, when to worry with me and when to tell me to get over it. I need that. We all do.

In the earliest days of my motherhood, I made sure to find out if Beaumont’s Parenting Program accepted adoptive families. The director was very understanding and got us into a multiples group in the next cycle. It was wonderful. Now, five years later, we still meet with three of the families regularly. I love them. I loved being in a group of people who had two babies at the same time. We all had dark circles under our eyes. We all went through it together. One day, I hope to be invited to those kids’ graduations and even weddings.

My online tribe is more of a secret, like Fight Club. We just lay it all out there. It’s a safe place to rant, swear, and be disenchanted with children and partners. It’s also a great resource for swapping items, a great knowledge storehouse for childhood illnesses, and it’s way cheaper than therapy. They are my people.

The fourth tribe is an amazing group of women working on their online business. I liked them a lot, but in the end, we weren’t a good fit. And that’s OK. I still admire their product from afar. I found the distance in that relationship that I needed and struck a balance.

We all have our “go to” group or friend to help us get through the craziness of parenting. At least, I hope we do. We all need someone to reaffirm that no, you are not losing your mind. Your child is just nuts right now, but don’t worry. It will pass. It always does.

It really does take a village to raise a child. But, more importantly, I think it takes a large suburb to raise an effective parent.

– Rebecca Calappi is a freelance writer, adoptive mom to twins and past Parenting Program participant. Surprisingly, she’s mostly sane.

Tips for Mother’s Day from a Mom

MOM decorative letters

What does Mother’s day mean?

It is one day of out 365 to highlight the main woman (or women) in your life who works endlessly, tirelessly, and often unnoticed, in your family to keep things running smoothly.

This day is a celebration honoring the mother in your family, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. How should this day be celebrated? How do you take one day out of the year to show your appreciation for all this love and hard work? Here’s my take on some tips for Mother’s Day:

  • Make the entire day about what the women in your life want to do. No joke here when I say that last year I spent some of my day in Home Depot picking out paint colors for our house. Take my advice when I say do not do this! Don’t treat Mother’s Day as any ordinary Sunday where you can cram in some house chores. Instead, have the men take the kid(s) out of the house to lunch or to the park so mom can enjoy some quiet time to take a shower without children barging in, read a book she’s been behind on, or do anything that she wants to do!
  • If you have young children who can’t make a cute project or pick out a present for their mother, dads you are responsible for getting something for your other half. Yep. Although she may not be your mother, your significant other is the mother to your children. Get her a meaningful gift from your little one to show her how much she means to the both of you. Hands down, I would prefer a handmade gift from my husband and little ones over a store-bought necklace or candy. Pinterest is full of ideas, but suggestions can be these adorable handprint canvas sign, this salt dough footprint craft, or this floral perfume spray that little hands can easily pick out, cut and stuff into spray bottles!
  • Although flowers are nice, even better than that is a nap and a day off duty from being a mom. Don’t get me wrong, I love both my children. I have two young boys (4 years and 4 months) and give them everything I have every single day. But for Mother’s Day, I would really like to have a day off from being Mom. I would like for my husband to be the one to get the cup of water, peel the banana, put a Band-Aid on my son’s knee, fix the broken toy, and help rock by baby to sleep. Being a sleep-deprived mother means that all my daydreams right now are currently of scooting away from my responsibilities and catching a 15 minute power nap. If you really want to spoil the woman in your life, give her money and time to go to Target by herself or a trip to the spa to get some pampering!

These tips are just from my point of view, but from my talks with family and friends, I know that I’m not alone. The most important point I’m trying to make is that moms want this day to be meaningful. Take the time to tell your mother, your wife, your sister, your mother-in-law, stepmother, friends and others how much they mean to you and your family. One day out of the year to show gratitude and appreciation for all the work moms do for their loved one the rest of the 364 days of the year.

P.S. Moms, feel free to give a “subtle hint” by sharing this post.

– Stephanie Babcock is an IFS coordinator with the Parenting Program. She’s a proud mom of two.

Chicago with kids: Nonstop fun

Let’s pretend we’re penguins!

My husband and I have a serious travel bug, but we’ve been grounded since having kids. For either cost or reasons lacking courage, we haven’t had it in us to go anywhere far with twins.

But we just got back from Chicago, and I’m so glad we went. The kids had a blast. We had a great time. It was amazing.

We started by driving to New Buffalo, Michigan, then taking an hour-long train ride into the city. The kids thought this was amazing and we thought it was economical and relaxing. For all four of us to take the train round-trip, it was $120. We’d have to pay $50 a day to park in Chicago.

girl at Adler Planetarium exhibit

Mission control at Adler Planetarium

After a short cab ride (another thrill for the kids) to our Airbnb, we set out to explore. My husband did great research and found a reasonably affordable place to stay that was central to what we wanted to see and do, as well as close to public transport. Luckily, the kids are just 5, so they ride for free on city buses and trains. Do your research, though. I thought we’d Uber around with them, but in Illinois, Uber has to abide by car seat laws, which means we’d have to tote their boosters around or pay an additional $10 per seat through Uber. Public transportation such as taxis and buses are considered commercial, so boosters aren’t necessary.

Our first stop was the Field Museum. I was warned that the museum was outdated, stuffy and not too kid-friendly. I found it the exact opposite. Just as we passed through the admission area, a dinosaur walked out — and not a Barney type, either. This guy was impressive! The museum was awesome with lots to look at, touch and do. But take this little bit of advice: Pack your own food. We had a small snack from the café there of three bags of chips, a water and two chocolate milks. Our total was $18.

boy watching two dolphins

Dolphin watching at Shedd Aquarium

The next day, we went to the Shedd Aquarium. It was a blast. From climbing rocks dressed like penguins to seeing the dolphin show and even watching a 4D SpongeBob movie, we all had a great time.

Finally, we headed to the Adler Planetarium. We didn’t spend a ton of time here, but what time we did spend was fun. It was definitely my least favorite of the three; it had a great play area for kids, but the rest of the museum went way over my 5-year-old’s head.

All in all, it was a great trip. I wish we’d been able to experience more of the cuisine, but time for that wasn’t in our favor. I guess we’ll have to go back again!

– Rebecca Calappi is a freelance writer enjoying her newly enhanced mom status and past Parenting Program participant.

Successful solutions for the homebound spring breaker

 

As the weather vacillates from winter to, well, still winter here in Michigan, one’s thoughts inevitably turn to more exciting times. Something must be on the horizon to break up this monotony, one thinks. And indeed, something is coming. No, not the zombie apocalypse.

Spring Break!

At this point in the school year, chances are high that spring break is right around the corner.  Many families use this time to travel – vacationing or visiting family elsewhere. Others, however, remain close to home and fill their time hiding from their children doing fun local activities. You may think, “But what can we do? My town is so boring.” Fear not! There is so much out there that this article won’t be sufficient to capture all of the possibilities.

  • Museums. The Detroit metro area offers several options that are specifically geared toward kids such as the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.
  • Indoor waterparks. Frankenmuth and Sandusky have a variety of fabulous ones. Live across the border? Adventure Bay Family Water Park is right in the heart of downtown Windsor.
  • Aquatic centers. Troy and Warren have indoor facilities.
  • Pottery and painting studios.
  • Zoos. Detroit and Toledo both boast excellent ones.
  • Metroparks and county parks offer hiking, bird watching, and nature centers.
  • Local farms. Lots of baby animals arrive during this time of year.
  • Libraries. Many have programs for younger kids.
  • Gyms. Even if you aren’t a member, many gyms offer day camps for kids whose parents still need to work.
  • Indoor climbing and play centers. Jungle Java and Detroit Kid City are popular choices.
  • Bowling!
  • Movies
  • Mini golf and/or the driving range

If transportation, finances or time are factors, then there is always the tried-and-true, time-honored, parent-approved activity that is sure to please all of the children: chore time! Surely there is a room that needs tidying or some dishes to wash. Many hands make light work, as Ye Olde Saying goes. And the kids sure do like those “Olde” sayings. Before they know it, they’ll be asking to go back to school.

– Wendy MacKenzie is a mother of four, Parenting Program volunteer, and former teacher who used to love Spring Break.

My new adventure starts now

person jumping over large gap

I turned 40 last year. I don’t know what clicked in my brain then, but something is giving me acne and the desire for more.

“More” is tough to explain because I’m not talking about material things. I want to enrich my life. It’s time to make changes.

The first thing I did was take two weeks off work. I needed to find out if this was feasible from a mental health standpoint — my mental health. Could I be a stay-at-home mom? Could I have all my focus on my kids and home? It’s a noble calling, but I never thought of it as mine.

But you know what? I liked it.

I liked having one less thing to stress about. I liked that my head was in the game, not half in, half out. I liked being able to keep the house in some semblance of order, not just spic-and-span on Sundays post binge-clean.

Stay-at-home moms are thinking, “Honey, two weeks won’t cut it.” I believe you. I do. But it was a good litmus test for me. I enjoyed my time and didn’t want to go back to my desk job. (Not that I don’t love you guys, I do.) I just didn’t feel fulfilled with it anymore. So, I did something completely out of character: I resigned.

I’m not going to kid myself and say the SAHM role is for me. I don’t think it is. So, in addition to my “enhanced mom” title, I’m going to write more and see what I can make of myself. I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking the “safe” way is the only way. They need to know that “smart jumps” are sometimes the only way to test your own limits and not doing something just because it’s new or scares you isn’t the right reason. It’s a lesson in calculated risks. And that’s a lesson worth learning.

When I became a mom five years ago, I would daydream about what I could do to make my kids proud of me. I hope this is the ticket.

– Rebecca Calappi is a publications coordinator at Beaumont Health and adoptive parent of multiples.

Code brown: Adventures in potty training

Little girl potty training her teddy bear

Cropped image. Manish Bansal, Flickr. CC license.

Take 1

At 18 months old, my daughter, we’ll call her C, started to show an interest in the toilet. I thought it was too early, but my mom insisted on getting her a potty. “She’s ready, honey,” Mom would say.

What do you know? On the first day we had the potty, she pooped in it. I squealed with delight. High-fives were flying. I was jumping up and down, yelling to my husband to come and see. All while my inner monologue was running wild: “Could it be?! C is diaper free at a year-and-a-half?! Do I have one of those mythical children who potty train themselves at a super young age?! This. Is. Amazing.”

This enthusiasm, however, was apparently quite terrifying because C wouldn’t even look at the potty, let alone sit on it, for weeks afterwards.

Take 2

We stopped being potty pushers and decided to take a more relaxed approach — we would let C tell us when she’s ready to start. However, around the two-year mark, a group of kids in her daycare class began potty training and we needed to jump on the bandwagon.

“But she’s not ready. Real underwear? She’s too little for that. Can’t we wait a little longer?” I begged her teacher. Nope. We had to reinforce at home what was being taught at daycare. Fine, way to be totally logical. We’ll try again.

Take 3 and 4 and 5…

At daycare, potty training progressed nicely. In the beginning, she often had accidents when they were outside playing (she didn’t want to stop to go to the bathroom) or during naptime. Lately, it’s been very infrequent, maybe once a week if that. Go daycare!

At home, it’s a different story. Rarely will C use the toilet and we never leave the house without a diaper or training pants on. I don’t get it. We’ve tried everything: sticker charts, chocolate chip bribes, positive reinforcement, commando weekends. I don’t know if I can read another “How to Potty Train Your Toddler in Three Days” article.

We’re constantly taking her into the bathroom and sitting her on the toilet with no results. On several occasions just moments after we leaving the bathroom, she had an accident (once hilariously on my husband while they watched TV; it was an especially juicy bowel movement).

Another favorite: going poop in the bathtub. I guess it is relaxing. But seriously C, a “code brown” is never a good way to kick off the bedtime routine.

So here we are nearly year after her toilet interest piqued and still changing diapers. Friends and family say not to worry. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics says, “It’s best to avoid assuming that your child will begin training by a certain age.”

Most of my brain agrees – she’s only two and half. I get it; she has plenty of time. However, a small part of me is confused — why is potty training going so well at daycare and not at home? What’s their secret? Is C is just trying to fit in with the cool kids and go to the bathroom on the toilet? (I guess there’s worse forms of peer pressure.) But seriously, do I need a parade of toddlers to come through my house every hour and use the bathroom so C will too?

Oh, potty training. One of these days, we’ll figure you out. In the meantime, let’s commiserate. Share your potty training adventures in the comments below.

– Anne Hein is a volunteer with the Beaumont Parenting Program and mom of a strong-willed toddler. 


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